Halloween 2014: What We Truly Dread

 

What is Hollywood Gothique not looking forward to?

Halloween 2014 looms before us, with its promise of horrors beyond anything we have ever experienced before: haunted houses, theme park attractions, scary rides, classic movie screenings, and more. But what does Hollywood Gothique truly dread? Read on to find out - if you dare!

Opening Night Jitters

Far too often we have encountered attractions that stumble out of the gate on opening night: special effects fail to trigger; actors miss their cues; sounds effects misfire. Everyone is entitled to a mistake or two, and we cannot blame Halloween haunts for not being absolutely perfect from day one, but here's the problem:

Your paying customers deserve the best, most entertaining show possible, regardless of your behind-the-scenes mishaps. If you cannot provide an event worthy of the full ticket price, then you should be charging less.

We've lost count of the number of times we have reviewed a Los Angeles Halloween haunt, only to have the owner offer a return engagement free of charge, to make up for any disappointment we reported. That's all well and good, but the question plaguing us is:

Are you going to give free complimentary admission to everyone else who was disappointed on opening night? If not, is it really fair for us to ignore the faults that undermined the effectiveness for other guests?

What's most annoying about this problem is that there is a simple solution: For ages, theatrical  stage productions have offered "preview nights" at discounted prices when a new play opens. Ticket buyers know going in that there may be a few bumps in the road, and if they want to avoid that, they should attend on a latter evening, at full price.

Up until 2008, the Queen Mary Halloween Terrorfest (as it was then called) offered exactly such a discount: half price on all tickets for opening weekend. We went every year, enjoyed the show, and never complained about imperfections, because that's the trade-off you make on a "preview night."

It's a practice that other Halloween events in Los Angeles should seriously consider.

The Off Night

The dire and dreadful syndrome is roughly analogous to Opening Night Jitters. The problem is not that the haunted attraction is not ready but that the owners are saving money on "off nights" with low attendance - hiring fewer actors and not putting on the full show - while still charging full ticket prices.

Typically, this happens on Sunday nights, sometimes on week nights. Complain at the box office, and the response will be: "Well, you should come back on a Friday or Saturday."

This of course is nonsense. You took someone's money and in return you owe them everything you have to give, not just your second-best effort because it's a slow night.

Halloween haunts that hire fewer actors on slow nights should be offering discounts on those nights; otherwise, they are ripping off their customers. Who knows? Discount prices may even boost business, luring more customers on those slow nights.

Not every "off night" is due to owner greed; sometimes a haunt may be hurt by circumstances beyond its control. Nevertheless, the same rule applies:

If you cannot provide an event worthy of the full ticket price, then you should be charging less.

Crowds

This is the great moral hazard of Halloween theme park attractions: overselling tickets in order to increase profits. The result is an uncomfortable experience fraught not only with endless waiting in lines to get into the haunted attractions, but also with slowly paced conga lines once you get into the attractions. In fact you may miss have the horrors you paid to experience, because you were stuck behind a corner when the effect triggered, or because an actor is resetting from a previous scare when you walk by.

The moral hazard of overcrowding is multiplied by the now common practice of selling VIP tickets. So the theme parks first make more money by selling too many tickets, diminishing the experience for their customers; then they make even more money by selling tickets that grant front-of-the-line privileges to those who can afford to pay even more.

There may be some virtues to a tiered ticket system (some customers may think the benefits are worth the extra charge, while others don't mind waiting in line if it means paying less), but here is our problem:

When you pay for admission to a Halloween theme park attraction, it should be assumed that you will be able to enjoy everything that attraction has to offer.

Possibly, you do not want to walk through every maze and go on every ride, but it should be possible. Unfortunately, too often it is impossible, as a simple bit of mathematics will show: If a park is open six hours (say 7pm to 1am), and it has seven rides and/or mazes, and each maze has a waiting time of over one hour - well, obviously, you ain't gonna see everything.

Clowns

Clowns 3D at Halloween Horror Nights
Clowns 3D at Halloween Horror Nights

With all due respect to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios with their Clowns 3D maze, killer klowns and crazy carnivals have been done to death over the past ten years, and not even a blistering soundtrack by Slash is likely to resurrect that corpse.

We feel the same way about Ringmaster at the Queen Mary Dark Harbor: with a wonderful nautical theme at your disposal, why waste space on a generic Halloween theme that any other haunt can do - and probably has done - ad infinitum?